Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Strawberry-Lemonade Layer Cake

Strawberry season is almost here and I know some of you in warmer climates are already buying freshly picked strawberries. Here is a perfect cake for a springtime celebration. I made it for our birthday dinner with family recently and it was delicious! It reminded of the Danish layer cakes that my mother used to buy for a special occasion when I was growing up.  There was no need to make one from scratch as we had such amazing Danish bakeries in my home town. 

The filling for the cake layers is a delicious, fresh strawberry jam that you can make several days ahead and the cake itself is best assembled a day ahead so the frosting and filling have time to firm up in the refrigerator. The frosting is a blend of whipped cream, cream cheese and more freshly chopped strawberries. 

The cake can be baked in either two or four round cake pans.  I used 2 cake pans and cut the cakes in half horizontally.  It helps if you have a very large spatula for this step for separating the layers.  We have this one that we bought for the grill but it does double-duty in the kitchen quite often. It really works well for moving delicate layers of cake!

One important  tip I can offer when making this cake is to read the directions more thoroughly than I did!  I had all of the layers frosted and assembled, up to the point of frosting the sides, when I realized that the strawberry jam was still in the refrigerator. Palm on forehead! I had to separate each frosted layer (again the extra wide spatula to the rescue) and then I spread the jam.  The frosting wasn't even supposed to go in between the layers, just the jam, but I liked it so much with both fillings that I wouldn't make it any other way!

I also wanted to share a cute spring Do-It-Yourself idea I found on Pinterest recently which is succulents planted in a salvaged bird's nest.  I used a robin's nest found in our yard years ago, lined the nest with moss, then added tiny succulents.  I borrowed some moss from a shady rock in our yard and have "Hens and Chicks" succulents growing in the garden so total cost to make this was $0.  I put the planted nest in a small urn to help stabilize it and hold any water leaks.  I've had it growing in the house for almost a month already and it's still doing really well.

Strawberry-Lemonade Layer Cake

Adapted from Southern Living
Printable Recipe

The strawberry jam can be made several days ahead and the entire cake can be assembled a day or two day ahead and keep refrigerated. Refrigerating after frosting the cake also helps the frosting to firm up better for easier slicing. You can also bake and freeze the unfrosted cake layers up to a month in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

Note:  I used only 2 9" cake pans rather than 4 and then cut those cake layers in half horizontally to make 4 layers

Makes 12 servings

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bakers Joy baking spray or shortening for greasing cake pans (I lined the bottom of the cake pans with rounds of parchment paper that I had traced and cut into circles using the bottom of the cake pans as a guide and sprayed with Bakers Joy)

Strawberry-Lemonade Jam (See Below)

Strawberry Frosting (See Below)

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Slowly add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating after each addition until blended.

Stir together flour and baking powder and salt.  Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Beat the egg whites in a large bowl at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-third of beaten egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in remaining the egg whites. Spoon batter into 4 prepared pans (Bakers Joy or shortening-floured 9-inch round cake pans).

Bake at 350° for 16 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (If you only use 2 cake pans, as I did, you will need need to bake them about 25-30 minutes until the wooden pick comes out clean). Do not over bake.

Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes and then invert on the wire racks to cool completely.
If you used only 2 cake pans, then slice each cake in half horizontally using a long, serrated knife. 

Place the first cake layer on a serving platter, and spread with about 1/2 cup Strawberry-Lemonade Jam, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edges. Spoon  about 1/2 cup of Strawberry Frosting over the jam layer.  Top with second and third cake layers, repeating procedure with filling and frosting between each layer. Top with last cake layer, and spread remaining Strawberry Frosting on top and sides of cake.

Strawberry-Lemonade Jam (can be made several days ahead and refrigerated)

Makes about 1 2/3 cups

2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Process strawberries in a blender until smooth.  Press through a wire-mesh strainer into a 3-qt. saucepan, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out juice, discarding pulp. Stir in the sugar.

Whisk together the lemon juice and cornstarch and then gradually whisk that into the strawberry mixture. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, about 1 minute or longer, until thickened. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and place plastic wrap directly on warm jam. Chill at least 2 hours or until cold. May be made up to one week ahead and kept refrigerated in an airtight container.

Strawberry Frosting

Makes about 5 cups

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar, divided
2/3 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1 drop pink food coloring gel (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Beat cream cheese and 1/3 cup confectioners sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the strawberries and food coloring (if desired) and beat until blended.

Beat the whipping cream and lemon juice at medium speed until foamy, then increase speed to medium-high and slowly add remaining 1/3 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold half of whipped cream mixture into cheese mixture, then fold in remaining whipped cream mixture. Frost cake soon after making.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Morning Bun Cruffins and Spring Has Sprung!

Hello, friends, I have so much to share today so this will be a long post! It's been a very busy time here the past two weeks with spring birthdays and a belated Easter celebration with family this past weekend.

Today, I'm sharing a recipe that I have become totally obsessed with. TOTALLY. I've made these Cruffins (croissant meets muffin) three times in the past two weeks and my jeans are feeling a little tight.  I'm thinking an intervention or rehab might be in order.  When I first saw the technique using a pasta roller to thinly roll the dough for these cruffins on Lady and Pups I immediately imagined how wonderful they might taste with cinnamon sugar added as in Morning Bun pastries.


I got out my KA mixer pasta attachment and got rolling!  Flaky, croissant-y layers of butter and cinnamon-sugar deliciousness.  I was hooked when I tasted the first one.

I'm not adding a tutorial because the one you'll see on Lady and Pups is very thorough if you decide to try these (although mine are not nearly as beautiful as hers).  From now on, I promise to only eat these on the weekend.  Promise!  Fingers crossed~

For our Easter celebration, I made Bunny Cakelets for my grandsons with my new cakelet pan from Williams Sonoma.  WS is already sold out of them but you can still find them on the Nordic Ware website.  Aren't they adorable?

Our boys also enjoyed an egg hunt here and I made shark hats for them - idea courtesy of La Table de Nana and her creative daughter :)

Last, and certainly not least, things are growing and blooming here at last! It certainly is a time to celebrate!

I'll be back soon to share a recipe for the delicious birthday cake that I made for my daughter!

Morning Bun Cruffins

Recipe Adapted from Lady and Pups

Please see tutorial on Lady and Pups as a guide. 

The major change I made to her recipe (other than my addition of cinnamon sugar) was in the cutting of the dough 'logs' after they are rolled out in the pasta roller and covered with butter and cinnamon-sugar mixture.  I tried cutting them 'crosswise' as she did but most of the cinnamon sugar oozed out with the butter during baking which made a caramelized mess and kept them from rising properly.  Therefore, for my morning bun adaptation, instead of cutting the logs lengthwise before twisting into buns, I cut my logs crosswise instead and rolled them with my hands until long enough to twist into the pretzel shape.  Two successful batches later can't be bad (unless of course you become addicted to these as I have). 
It is best to use a digital kitchen scale to measure the flour and water, but if you don't have one, loosely pile the flours in a measuring cup and scrape the top level with a knife. 

150 grams (1 cup + 1 tbsp) bread flour
150 grams (1 cup + 1 tbsp) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp (6 grams) instant dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp (11 grams) salt
130 grams (1/2 cup) luke-warm water + 30 grams (2 tbsp) if more is needed
50 grams (3 1/2 tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature

115 grams (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, divided into 4 equal parts (2 T each) and softened to room-temperature (I placed mine in four small individual ramekin dishes)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons of cinnamon

2 hours before starting the dough, leave the butter on the counter for it to completely come to room-temperature.
Mix 1 cup of sugar with 4 teaspoons of cinnamon and blend thoroughly and set aside.
Butter a muffin pan or spray with baking spray with flour, such as Bakers Joy.

In a stand-mixer with dough-hook (or large bowl with hand-held mixer with dough-hooks), whisk together flours, yeast and salt until blended. Add 130 grams of luke-warm water (around 95F/35C) and knead on low speed for 3 min. The dough should be slightly shaggy and stiff, but if it has difficulty coming together, add the additional 30 grams (2 tbsp) of water and knead again. Then, add the 50 grams of cubed butter and knead on low speed for 5 minutes until completely incorporated. Increase to medium speed and knead for another 10 ~ 15 minutes until the dough is extremely smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes at room-temperature. It should expand slightly.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and divide it into 4 equal portions. (Use your digital scale to proportion them if you have one). Work with 1 portion at a time covering the rest loosely with plastic wrap. Dust the dough with just enough flour so it doesn't stick, then pat into 1/3" (1 cm) thickness. With a pasta machine at its thickest setting, feed the dough through the machine.

Very lightly dust both the dough with a bit of flour, then start running the dough through the machine, until you reach the thinnest increment (should be very thin but not falling apart). If necessary, cut the dough in half if it gets too long.  On my pasta roller attachment I rolled my dough to the second thinnest setting.  

Lay the very long piece (or two pieces if you had to cut it side by side) on the counter. With your fingers, gently rub a thin layer of the room-temperature butter (has to be very soft but NOT MELTED) evenly across the dough, extending all the way to the edges. A pastry brush may help with this step. Do this to both sections of the dough if you had to cut it in half. Keep in mind that this is a 1/4 of the entire dough and you should use up 1/4 of the butter.
Sprinkle 1/8th cup or so of cinnamon sugar over the buttered dough. 

Once finished, start rolling the dough from one end to the other, as tightly as you can, into a firm log. If you had to cut the dough into two pieces, then place the first log on end of the other buttered section of dough, and roll it up again. Now, cut the log in half cross-wise with a floured knife.  Roll the two cut pieces with your hands on the counter until they are about 6 inches long and then twirl the dough and shape it into a semi-knot and tuck the ends underneath. Place the knots inside buttered muffin-pan. Repeat the process with the other 3 portions of the dough and butter.
Cover the muffin tin loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours until doubled in size. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 400F/200C, for about 20 minutes (more or less, depending on your oven) until puffed and golden browned

Note: You can wrap the entire muffin-pan with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge without allowing the dough to rise and bake them the next day.  They may take up to 3 hours or more to rise after being chilled.